2010 is almost upon us so let the New Year’s Party preparations begin! If you’re just about ‘baked up’ as I am, you’ll be thankful for this easy recipe that takes less than 5 minutes to make and a few more minutes to form into balls for a pretty presentation.
These Date balls shown in enormous detail above! are a standard dessert item at our annual Eastern Orthodox St. Nicholas celebration every December 19th and continue to please at every occasion beyond. The infusion of Grand Marnier and orange zest in the dates creates an elegant and decidedly adult treat. Chocolate plays second fiddle and acts merely as a binder.
I prefer Medjool dates for their dark, succulent flesh and intense honey-like sweetness. Also known as the Queen among dates, the Medjool palm originated in Morocco and was brought to California in the early 20th Century where it has been cultivated ever since. Dates were an important fuel for the desert tribes and nomads of north Africa and the Middle East. Because they travel well, they were successfully introduced to the Greeks and Romans on the other side of the Mediterranean, where they were highly prized and sold at markets wrapped in gilded paper.
Dates are high in potassium, fiber and natural sugars which make them a perfect energy snack for athletes. Check out my date energy bars that I make for my ride during the MS150 every year. They are also marvelous in savory dishes.
I suggest you make the mixture a couple of days before you plan to serve the balls. It will allow the rich flavors to ‘marry’ and we all know that good things come to those who wait ….
Place pitted dates, walnuts and Grand Marnier in a food processor
Process until it’s a coarse mixture
Add orange zest and melted chocolate and pulse until it all comes together
It’s that simple!
Date Balls – if possible, make the mixture a couple of days before you plan to serve. Makes about 40 balls.
8 oz. (2 cups) pitted whole dates, preferably Medjool
1 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier, brandy or orange juice concentrate
fine zest of 1 orange
½ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate or good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips (Callebaut, Ghirardelli 60% cacao or Guittard would work well. The cheaper brands have too much sugar and are less flavorful).
sparkling (sanding) sugar or confectioner’s sugar
Put dates, walnuts and Grand Marnier in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped (see photo above).
Melt chocolate slowly in a double boiler or microwave. Add zest and melted chocolate to the date mixture and pulse just until the mixture comes together. If necessary, add a little more melted chocolate. Transfer to a bowl, cover and chill for a couple of days so that the flavors can blend.
When you are ready to make the date balls, scoop a little of the mixture (I use a melon ‘baller’) and shape into small balls using your fingers . Roll in sparkling sugar or confectioner’s sugar.
Serve in decorative paper cups, if desired.